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The Family of Vortigern
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The House of Vortigern
Robert Vermaat

Diagram 1: Postulated[1] genealogy and contemporary relationships as related to several insular dynasties and the imperial families of the later Roman empire. This diagram does not claim any real historical connections, but means to show what the dynasty of Vortigern could have looked like. It is meant for those interested in possible postulated links with Roman Imperial families, but more for those not yet familiar with all persons involved in the history and legend around Vortigern. PostulatedGenealogy and contemporary relationships as related to several insular dynasties and the imperial families of the later Roman empire.

............   mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm<---------------------------------->mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm-mmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm
CrispusmmmmmClaudius II (Gothicus), mmmaybe the same person as[2] Gloiu[3] gwallt hirm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmAugustus 268-270, d.270 mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm
daughtermmmmmMarcus Aurelius Valerius Maximian = Eutropiammm-mm|mmmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmAugustus 286-305, 307-308, d.308mmmmmmmm-mmmmmmmm|mmmmmmm
mmmm
Helen = Constantius I (Chlorus)mmm-m|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmm
mmm-
b.265 mmAugustus 305-306, d.306mmmmmm|mmmmmGalerius Valeriusmmmmmmmmm? 3 or 4 generations[4]mm
m mm
d.336mmmmmmmm-m|mmmmmmmmmmmFausta= Maximianus Daiammmmmmmmmmmmmmmm-|mmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmm-mm-
|mmmmmmmmmmm-m|mmmmmmmd.317mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm-mmmmmm|mmmmmm
mmmm
Minervia = Constantine I (the Great) m|-mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm---m|mmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmm
Augustus 306-337, d.337mmm-m|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmm|mmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm-mmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmm
Flavius Julius Crispus = Faustammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmm
d.325mmmmmmmmm-md.325mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm<------------------------------------------------------>mm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
?[5]mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmVitalinus[6], mBonus, mPaulus, mMauron mm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmb.310mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmm
Magnus Flavius Maximus[7]mClemens mmmmmm-mm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmWightgilsmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmm
Augustus 383-388, b.320mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm-|mmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmVitalismmm-mmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmb.340mmmmmmmmmmmmm<------------------------->m
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmHengist[8] mmm Horsam
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmb. 400x420, d.488/ mmmd.455m
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmm
<-------------------------------------->mmmmmmmmGwrtheyrn Gwrtheneummmmmmmmm<------------------------------------>
Ennodius = (Maxima) mmVictor mmSevira[9] =(1) VITALINUS[10] VORTIGERN[11] =(2)Rowena[12] Octham Ebissa
Procos Africae,mmmmmmmmmb.345,mmm..mmmmmmmmmmBp. of London, 400-410[13]mm...m mb. 420m ....m m|mmmmm
mmm
395mmmmmmmmmmmmk.388 mm..mmmmmmmmmmmDux[14]Gewissei, 410-425[15] mmmmmmm...mmmm-m|mmmmm
mmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmRex Britanniae 425-441[16]mmmmmmmmmmmm m|mmmmm
mmm
<----------------------------------->mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmb. 370, d.443x455[17]mmmmmmmmmmmmm mm|mm
m
Ennodius Felixmmmm (Ennodia) = Anicius Probinusmmmmmmmmmm|mvmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm(oisc)
mProcos. Africae, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmCos. 395,mmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
mmv
408-423 mmmmmmmmmmmmmmProcos. Africae 396-7mmmmmmmmmm-m|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm-mm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Valentinian III[18]= Licinia Eudocia = Petronius Maximus[19]mm mm -m|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Augustus 425-455mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmCos.433 Augustus 455mmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmLoiguiremmmmm
mmk. 455mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmb.396-8, k.455mmmmmmmmmm-m|mmmmmmmmmmmmmHigh King of Ireland,mm
mmm|mmmGeiseric[20]mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm428-462 mmmmmm
mmm|mmRex Vandalorummm<---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->mmmmm|m
mmm|mmmmm| mmmVortimer[21]mmPascent[22] mCatigern[23]mFaustus[24] ..Britu[25]mScotnoe[26]= Fedelmidmm
mmm|mmmmm|mmmKing of Britain,mmmm|mmmmmmm d.455mmmmmmBp. of Riez, 452-475mmm mmb. 400mmm of Trimmmm
mmm|mmmmm|mmmm441-456?mmmm-mm|-mmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmm
Eudocia = Hunericmm b. 400mmmm-m|mmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmm
b.438/9 Rex Vandalorummm|mmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmm
mmm|mmmmmmmmmm..m|mmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmm(octha)mm
mmm|mHonorius[27] = Modrun[28]mRiocatus[29] Ruddfedel?[25]mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmFoirtgirn[30]mmm|m
mmm|mof Gwentmmmmm|mmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmm|mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmb.430mmmmmOiscmm
mmm|mmb. 430mmmdynasty ofmmdynasties[31] of mdynasty of mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmKing of Kent
mVandalmmmmmmmGwent mmmmBuilth & mmmmmPowysmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mm........mmmmmmb.440, 488-512
Kingdommmmmmmmmmmmmm Gwrtheyrnion[32] mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm|mmmmm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmdynasties ofm
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Kent & Essex
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    Notes

[1] This genealogy is compiled of both historical and semi-legendary sources. The Roman part is almost completely attested in historical sources, the British part is mostly based on non-contemporary works, such as the Historia Brittonum, Welsh dynastic lists (e.g. the Pillar of Elise, the Bonedd y Saint, the Harleian and Jesus College MSS), or the histories of Tysilio and Geoffrey of Monmouth. For a more complete review of Vortigern's place in the Welsh pedigrees, see the pedigrees of East and South Wales.
[2] Gloiu might be a Welsh version of the Latin name Claudius, probably Claudius I, the founder, but some authors have identified him not with the first Emperor, but with the second - the Emperor Claudius II Gothicus (d.270). (see also note 3).
[3] Historia Brittonum C.49.
Gloiu; probably the eponym for Gloucester (Glevum), which might indicate that Vortigern's family originated there. This would make Vortigern a nobleman of the Dobunni or from Powys. Gloiu was also known as Gloiu Gwallthir. This later Welsh epithet means of the long hairs , or horsehair, indicating that he was a Roman soldier. Gloiu could also be a version of the Roman personal name Claudius (see note 2).
[4] Although Gloiu is supposed to have been the father of Vitalinus and his three brothers, it is also possible that these brothers were the three missing generations between Vitalinus and a Gloiu that was the same person as the Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. But this is purely speculative. However, the Life of St Gurthiern makes Vortigern the son of Bonus and the grandson of Gloiu. It is also possible that Vitalinus was not a brother, but the family name, e.g. Vitalinus Bonus of Glevum.
[5] This lineage is of course purely speculative. Magnus Maximus was born at about the same time as Crispus and Fausta were killed, but their son remained lost. If he was indeed a son of Crispus, Magnus Maximus could have had one more reason to claim the Imperial title. However, no source does claim this connection. The speculation is mentioned here only because of the occurrence of the name 'Fausta' in the generations above Magnus Maximus. This strengthens the theory that Faustus of Riez was in fact a son of Vortigern, as the name occurred in the family of his mother Sevira.
[6] Alternatively, Gloiu may not have been a real person, but simply a scribal error for 'Vitalinus of Gloucester.'
[7]  The ‘Macsen Wledig’ of the Welsh genealogies. He was probably related to Theodosius I by marriage to a relative, rather than that he was a relative of the Emperor’s wife Flavia Aelia Flacilla. We know of two sons, Constans and Victor, the latter being co-ruler during Maximus' usurpation. He probably had at least one daughter (‘Maxima’), who married Ennodius, Proconsul Africae in 395. British tradition gives another daughter (Sevira), who married a man of stature during the same time; Vortigern. Welsh legend claims other sons, such as Owain (Eugenus) and Andragathius. He was also supposed to have had another wife (Helen, daughter of Octavius (Euddav), and he is made ancestor to many dynastic lineages. Though once a staunch supporter of Theodosius I, he usurped the throne in 383 against Gratian, whom he had killed. This angered Theodosius very much, so that when Maximus lost the battle of Aquilieia, Theodosius had him executed by Fl. Constantius.
[8] Anglo-Saxon Chronicle;
Oisc (or Aesc) received the Kingdom (from Hengist) in 488. In this diagram, I have placed a later Hengist next to an early Vortigern. Traditionally, Vortigern is placed in the second half of the 5th century. Both Historia Brittonum and Geoffrey of Monmouth place him in the first half, while Gildas remains silent. It is only Bede who has proposed the traditional opinion, which has been more acceptable since, mostly because of Bede’s strong textual reliance on Gildas. Hengist may however be known from the ‘Beowulf’ and the lost ‘Finnesburgh Fragment’. If indeed identified with that Hengist, this would place him in the early 5th century as well. This would make Oisc an older king, but not impossibly old.
[9] Pillar of Elise.
This is the only source mentioning Vortigern's original wife,
Sevira (or Severa or Servilla). A marriage between them could be rejected as an attempt to link the dynasty of Powys with the Emperor Magnus Maximus, but it might have been historical. We know of another daughter of Magnus Maximus (Maxima) who was married to a powerful man (Ennodius, proconsul Africae).
[10] Historia Brittonum, C.66, and Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Bittanniae, VI.2-6.
The name of
Vitalinus is also connected with Vortigern in other ways. A Vitalinus is mentioned in C.66 is fighting an Ambrosius in 437 at the battle of Guoloph. Likewise, Vortigern is also fighting an Ambrosius (Aurelianus) in all later sources. Also, Vitalinus is the name of Vortigern’s grandfather or even that of his entire family (above). When one combines this with the possibility that the Guithelinus mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth is the same person as Vortigern (below), one may come to the conclusion that Vortigern is a political name, taken by a man originally called Vitalinus.
[11] Historia Brittonum, C.49.
Gwrtheyrn Gwrteneu, Vortigern the Thin; Vortigern Vorteneu, son of Vitalis, son of Vitalinus, son of Gloiu. The epithet of Vorteneu, W. Gwrtheneu (Gor-Teneu) means "Very Thin". This may have referred to his old age.
[12] Historia Brittonum, C.37.
Marriage to
Rowena (or Renwein or Rhonwen) was supposed to have been the reason for Vortigern to accede Kent to the Saxons and the rebellion of his son Vortimer, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth. Apart from a total fabrication to explain a forgotten history, a political arrangement is more likely, whereby Hengist served as a guard against other military groups, such as other federates or rival Britons. If we accept the dates of Hengist and his sons according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Rowena must have been very young (However, see note 7 as well). Geoffrey makes her the sister of Hengist.
[13] Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Bittanniae, VI.2-6.
Guithelinus, archbishop of London, was the leader of the Britons after the Romans left. No other sources ever mention him, and he conveniently disappears when Vortigern enters the story. Though Geoffrey or his sources clearly did not know of a connection, Guithelinus or Vitalinus may simply have been Vortigern himself, before he took that name for political reasons.
[14] Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Bittanniae, VI.6.
Geoffrey introduces Vortigern as ‘Dux Gewissei’. These ‘Gewissans’ (pl.) were probably the same as the ‘Gewissae’ around Dorchester-on-Thames, who later became the West Saxons. Indeed, the Anglo-Saxon historian Asser uses ‘Gewissei’ for the West Saxons. Though ‘Gewis’ was later seen as the semi-mythological founder of the dynasty, it remains a possibility he was in fact the leader of (one of) these units, which were named after him (a common practice in the Roman army).
[15] Vortigern need not have been a militairy commander, for the only other ‘Dux Gewissei’ was Octvian, father-in-law to Magnus Maximus on the British side. The Welsh Bruts use ‘Gewissei’ for the territory of Ariconium, while Asser and Bede use it for the early territory of Wessex. Maximus was father-in-law to Vortigern, who might thus have inherited a power-base in South Wales. So, in that case, ‘Dux’ might represent local kingship rather than military command.
[16] Historia Brittonum, C.66.
We can be fairly certain of Vortigern’s ascent in 425. If he was Vitalinus, his ascendancy may even date back to the events of 410, when the Britons, desperate after the ‘Rescript of Honorius’, trusted him with their defence. Though he was later called a king, his title may have been Rex Britanniae. With the revolt of the federates in 441 he lost his position - his son Vortimer took it from him, or else it was without real power, as a Saxon minion.
[17] When did Vortigern die? There may have been some duplications in the stories about Vortigern and Vortimer. Vortimer originally fought beside his father in the battles after the Saxon revolt. But after Vortimer's death Vortigern returned, suffered a final humiliation and disappeared again. This might be a duplication of Vortigern's actions or even mistaking Vortigern for Vortimer. It is also possible that Vortimer reigned after his father, and actually invited Hengist as a counterforce against the rebellious federates. In this case the legend is true, but Vortigern was mistaken for Vortimer. If correct, Vortigern died shortly after 441 and Vortimer around 455.
[18] Valentinian III succeeded to the throne when he was only four years old, and for many years his mother Placidia effectively ruled the Eastern empire. In the west it was the warlord Aetius who was sole ruler as Magister Militium, but for the title of Emperor. When at last the jealousy of Valentinian got the better of him, he stabbed Aetius for no reason. He was subsequently murdered by the followers of Aetius, allegedly organized by Petronius Maximus, but with his own bodyguard looking on.
[19] Petronius Maximus was very probably the great-grandson of the usurper Magnus Maximus, though he also belonged to the noble family of the Petronii, who identified themselves with the Anicii. Petronius was alledgedly responsible for the death of Valentinian III. After Valentinian had needlessly executed Petronius’ former commander Aetius in 454, it would have been very possible indeed that Maximus wanted revenge. He usurped the throne on March 17, 455, only to be killed on May the 31st of the same year, when he left Rome for Ravenna to seek refuge from the advancing army of Geiseric. He was recognized and stoned to death by an angry mob.
[20] Interestingly, Geiseric was invited to North Africa by Boniface, the rival of Aetius. He invited the Vandals, who had been active in Spain for about twenty years, to support him against rival Roman forces. This mirrors the actions of Vortigern during the same period! Also, it mirrors the result of the action - the loss of the province and the creation of an independent territory by the former federates.
[21] Historia Brittonum, C.43,44 & 48.
Gwrthefyr Bendigeit:
Vortimer the Blessed; his name, when derived from Vertimorix, means ‘Highest King’, thus claiming a higher authority than Vortigern. This may be plausible in the light of the stories of a rebellion against his father (though a possibility that he was not a son at all remains). Vortimer is supposed to have fought the Saxons after the disgrace of Vortigern by Germanus. But we cannot be sure about the time in which he supposedly deposed his father after the marriage to Rowena, daughter of Hengist (see below). In the Life of St Germanus, Vortimer was blessed by the saint for his opposition to Vortigern. After his death, he was meant to be buried in Richborough (to ward off the Saxons), but his followers disobeyed him. His daughter Modrun became the first of a long line of saints.
[22] Historia Brittonum, C.48.
Pasgen; ..the third was
Pascent, who reigned in the two provinces Builth and Guorthegirnioun, after the death of his father. These were granted him by Ambrosius Aurelianus.
[23] Historia Brittonum, C.44.
Cadeyrn: battle-king’; the second battle of Vortimer against the Saxons at Episford, where
Catigern and Horsa fell; the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records Horsa's death at the battle of Aylesford in 455. Though acknowledged in the genealogy of Powys, it remains doubtful if he ever was king.
[24] Historia Brittonum, C.48.
In a very confusing way it is claimed here that Vortigern had a fourth son named
Faustus, born to him incestiously (as was Britu) by his own daughter, and who later became bishop of Riez. This Faustus of Riez is a historical figure, known to Sidonius Appolinaris as a Briton. Britu and Faustus were probably the same person, 'Faustus' being a 'name in Christ'. Since he was bishop from 452 until after 475, he is more likely to have been a son than a grandson of Vortigern.
[25] Pillar of Elise.
Britu is claimed as the son of Sevira and Vortigern, but also as the son, brother and even grandson of Catigern: Jesus College XX.16. There may have been a mixup leading to the charges of
incest, that Vortigern had a son by his own daughter, as is also claimed of Faustus. The Britu that succeeds Catigern as king of Powys in most pedigrees might also have been the Britu map Vortigern from the Pillar of Elise. The discussion above is in favour of the latter, and though we shouldn’t exclude the possiblity of a (short-lived) son called Britu as well, I believe the evidence is in favour of the theory that when Catigern died in the battle of Episford/Ritergabail, he left no heir, after which his brother succeeded him. Britu might have perished in the chaos after the death of Vortigern (whether as son or brother), after which Pascent was confirmed as new ruler. His line then continued as ruling dynasty, only challenged by that of Cadell. Britu has been made a grandson of Catigern through a 'son' called Ruddfael. This last one seems very much like an interpolation, based upon a misconception of the name of Catigern's last battle.
[26] Tripartite life of St. Patrick
Scotnoe is described as a British wife of Fedelmid, son of the Irish High King Loiguire. Her father is described as ‘King of Britain’, so it can at least be assumed that
Foirtgirn was named after his grandfather, Vortigern. The Book of Armagh makes Scotnoe the grandmother of Foirtgirn, probably due to some confusion about the fact that Loiguire also had a British wife.
[27] Ynyr Gwent. Ynyr is a later Welsh transcription of the common name Honorius, very fitting for a late-Roman style ruler in the civitas of Venta Silurum during the days of Emperor Honorius III. His brother and his descendants became the rulers of Gwent for 700 years.
[28] Bonedd y Saint
According to one text (B, followed by G), Vortimer's daughter
Modrun was married to Ynyr Gwent. Her daughter became confused with the Winefred legend.
[29] Rhiagath; another form of ‘Battle-King’(Rigo-cathos).
[30] Since he was able to converse with Lomman (around 440) in the British language, he was probably born about 430.
[31] As attested in the Historia Brittonum 49, against Harleian MS 3859.27.
[32] Gwrtheyrnion or Vortigerniana, ‘land of Vortigern’

Bibliography

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